Soaring number of complaints to police over social networking

SUFFOLK: Police have seen an 11-fold increase in complaints about social networking websites in just two years, it emerged today.

Officers are having to cope with a soaring workload involving allegations of cyber bullying, taunting, and harassment on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo.

According to official figures, Suffolk police are now investigating as many reports in a month as they did in the whole of 2008/09.

From April 1 to September 30 last year there were 973 complaints to Suffolk Constabulary related to social networking, averaging 162 a month.

This compared with a total of 165 (an average of 14 a month) between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009.

Although many reports may not end up in prosecutions, all have to be treated seriously and investigated.

Superintendent David Skevington said: “Social networking is much more of a problem than it used to be a few years ago because what it has done is created a medium whereby people can abuse others, and that puts it into a public environment which means people are much more likely to come to the police.

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“It is quite right that police get involved, especially if it involves those who are vulnerable such as young people.

“For years people have made unpleasant comments to others, but modern society means it is now happening over the internet.

“However, what would be foolish would be to write it off as spite, or an exchange between two people. We need to spend time and assess the reports, as well as look at the people involved. It could turn out to be something significant.

“There may well be an element of thinking that because people are using popular sites they are entitled to say, or express, what they wish.

“What they need to remember is that comments in a public domain still need to be appropriate and within the law.

“People need to be absolutely sure they use social networking sites for the purpose they are intended.”

n Has your life been blighted by comments on a social networking site? E-mail or write to Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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